Why ‘reality’ doesn’t work as a concept!

The curiosity that “reality” doesn’t make sense as a concept (as it can’t be represented in the mind) becomes more sensible in natural language terms at least. You can then ask what makes reality work so well as a process.  … Comments from a LinkedIn discussion group “UN call for revolutionary thinking [for] economic survival..6/24/12


1.       Struggling to get scientists to discuss natural self-organizing systems6/24/12

Jessie Henshaw @L –  It could help to notice how you restated my saying “They [scientists] tend to go direct from data to models without studying [the] complex working processes the subject came from or operates with.”    To me, your response displays the basic problem I’m describing.

I’ve spent years with large and small scientific communities trying to get them to let me demonstrate a way to study the instrumental processes of individual complex systems, helping expose how they develop and change.  After 30 years of that, making steady advances all along myself… I still feel about as stumped as before about how to share them.

A sign of the problem is in how you restate my complaint, changing the subject.   Your restatement of it was “her generalization that scientists in general leap from data to models without regard to systems”, saying that has not been your experience.

You changed the phrase “without studying [the] complex working processes the subject came from or operates with” to the phrase “without regard to systems”. That rephrasing shifts the subject from phenomena of nature (in their own form), to system models (as concepts for nature) defined within the researcher’s own framework of explanations. That’s my complaint!

Of Course, scientists study their own frameworks of explanation, very carefully.   That becomes a problem by reducing nature to the study of our own concepts.   It’s almost universal, that we end up studying and discussion nothing but our own abstract ideas, and not why natural systems don’t seem to fit them.   It effectively excludes study of the working processes of nature that are producing the phenomenon we intend to explain.

The discrepancy, for example, is overlooking the significance that deterministic processes have no way to begin or end…   Why don’t scientists notice that???    When you closely look at how predictable behaviors actually begin and end, it is with non-deterministic developmental process, processes that have no “map” to follow but change as they go according to local circumstances.   A simple example is the flight of a baseball, and (deterministic) parabolic path in flight.

The processes by which the flight of the ball has to begin and end are theoretically intractable.  It’s with bursts of organizational development and energy use that initiate the tossing of the ball, followed by a period of organizational decay and energy dispersal to end it.   Because those are indefinable they are eliminated from our study of nature, and so leave us representing nature as not having them…   That’s a “fine kettle of fish”, no?

It gets “curiouser and curiouser” asking why the hell a “true fact” of that kind wouldn’t be seen as quite remarkable, and needed to explain an ostensibly deterministic world.   What I’ve gotten it down to is that (as a concept) “reality” ends up not making any sense.   Of course, the problem with that is that reality works fine.

It just uses processes that have been inexplicable from a deterministic view, impossible to describe with information models for “making sense”.    It’s *not* that reality is “senseless” in natural language terms, but that senseless in theoretical terms.

Still hampering my progress in understanding that “exclusion phenomena” of scientific inquiry is that I can’t find good examples of other scientists trying to define the problem…   Scientists seem to avoid rather than be curious about how reality doesn’t not fit deterministic models, most noticeable when you consider individual occurrences of things to be one of the subjects of science.    Do you have a possible way to define the question I’m trying to get at, that might be better than mine here?

It seems to have *a lot* to do with why our economy is modeled as a deterministic perpetual growth process, when in nature explosive growth is *quite* strictly a temporary phase of development for organizational processes.



2.       T replied in part (paraphrased) 6/24/12

Jessie, have mercy: Should I believe what your’e saying because you’re an expert and a scientist, or because you’re not??   If your’s saying scientists aren’t noticing that deterministic processes have no way to begin or end…  and you’re a scientist, how could you have noticed?  You seem to say you’re using science to prove the general case, so aren’t you then saying you’re a scientist?


3.     To which I answered: 6/24/12

Jessie Henshaw • @T – As to your first questions “none of the above” is my answer. I want you to be curious about it because you can observe it yourself. I still think of myself as a scientist, just one who is fascinated by the kinds of organization nature uses that are unlike scientific models.

The proofs I refer to would be seen as direct extensions of the conservation of energy, for when energy is in general not created or destroyed. That means if you energy accounts don’t seem to add up you’re missing some information. that prompts you to search for where it might be hiding, and then finding it. With practice that gives you some generally successful search strategies to use, very much following the normal discovery and implementation practice of science.

To me “probabilistic” and “random” describe nature as following predetermined rules and so are in the family of “deterministic” descriptions of nature. “Non-deterministic” to me would need to be “path finding” such as strategies for searching an environment. It might be to “find something that works with what you’ve already found” like growth systems that seem to search their environments for things to consume, like fire. Deterministic processes change in relation to their own prior states, not what they find to interact with.

So basically I see deterministic rules as coming from a physical system’s regularity of behavior (not the reverse), like the 3.5% “growth constant” for the modern economy that generally applied for a couple hundred years. For regular growth the period in which it is deterministic is inherently quite temporary for numerous reasons.

As far as I know it is unnecessary to consider gravity and other seemingly universal deterministic laws of physics as “temporary” in the same way, even though they are implicitly so, and even now studied as evolving still. They appear to have come into existence a finite period of time ago, by a process of inflation during which the organization of matter and energy developed its regularities. That inflation process may have been a growth process, and have been path dependent and not pre-determined as growth processes we can study generally seem to be.

It’s remarkably useful, though, to notice regularities in you environment, know to search for the system producing them, and then ask how that system will change when it confronts changes in its environment.


4.     T then replied in part (paraphrased) 6/25/12

Jessie, So does saying “none of the above” mean you’re neither an expert nor a non-expert, nor a scientist or a non-scientist?  Okay; In searching my Venn diagram for a new category outside my box of my thinking of the four areas {A,B}, {non-A,B}, {A,non-B}, {non-A, non-B}, I stumble upon the only point where I can find you: straddling the fence where the lines cross.


5.     To which I answered: 6/25/12

Jessie Henshaw • @T,  I can see were you got that humorous view, but no, “none of the above” really meant I don’t want you to base your beliefs on my authority.  I don’t want you to believe what I say on my authority as an expert and scientist or even as your friend or guru, …or anything.  I’d want you to discover what to believe for yourself, maybe comparing hints on where to look from others, the way I think all valid beliefs are found.

I didn’t mean to say not to consider what experts, non-experts, scientists and non-scientists have to say. I meant that you should find the answer in what you can verify for yourself, and not take whether deterministic processes begin with non-deterministic ones on faith, based just on hearsay. That’s not so bad is it? Couldn’t a scientist might reach their own scientific conclusion, having gathered sufficient evidence?

The bar napkin displays a diagram of your conceptual thinking, showing how the diagram is naturally indeterminate on the question. Try maybe just looking at some direct tests of the question. See if for events that have a definite beginning you can find the “viral” (aka “bootstrap” or self-amplifying) process that I say can generally be found at their origin. For example, a spark begins with an ionization cascade, initiated infinitesimally somehow, so the current pulse observably begins with a non-linear little explosion of new organization and energy use, right?

You might also look at the general physics theorem [http://synapse9.com/drtheo.pdf] proving that to satisfy energy conservation physical systems that begin or end (energy use going from “zero” to “finite” in a finite period) require non-linear growth processes to get them going. The trick for many people is realizing that the question is about the physical process, perhaps unseen but theoretically taking place whether seen or not.

It’s not about how a set of stochastic equations might be arranged, as information models are not constrained by energy conservation. They and can symbolize infinite accelerations and energy densities with no difficulty. Physical processes need a bootstrap process where an information model can just skip the transitions, just defining “after” as the probabilistic result of “before” with no physical process needing to have occurred, like QM is based on.

Jessie Henshaw • @T (cont…) So, the “change of subject” I was referring to (though Lewis’s not yours) was from my speaking of the physical energy using processes in question (that require developmental processes to change), to his speaking of conceptual information models (that don’t require developmental processes to change). That (rather normal) switch material to abstract thinking avoids the scientific question being posed about the material world, is the problem.

Would it clear up the confusion I added for you, including “randomness” in “deterministic”, to think of both “certain” and “uncertain” calculations as “calculation determined”? I believe “deterministic” actually means “as if calculation determined” (whether certain or uncertain) and not necessarily “predictable with certainty”. My assertion is that close examination of physical processes (not equations) exposes non-equation-determined (non-deterministic) processes where they begin or end.

You described a predetermined “search strategy” and I intended to refer to creative search strategies, where you decide to do with what you find when you find it. A predetermined search strategy would be like a robot wandering a warehouse, recognizing nothing but what’s in its programmed rules. It might not notice that the humans has stopped servicing it years ago and still dutifully radio the dispatch desk for new orders every twenty minutes. For a non-deterministic search “encountering different surprises” results in changing your search programming according to what you find.

As they say, “Life is what happens when you were planning something else”. If you look at exactly *how* new events take place, I think you’d also conclude that some local search process writing its own program in response to what it finds is necessary for kick starting processes with no local precedent. Talking in the abstract may not answer it, only looking at how actual events transpire. That returns the subject to the viewpoint I think offers a genuine answer.

As you point out, the economy physically exists as part of human social processes. One can consider that as either a conceptual relationship, or as a physical one. As a conceptual relationship the necessities of physical processes don’t necessarily come up at all. I hope you’d agree that if the economy wasn’t also a physical system, that used energy and organization to operate, any conceptual model of it would not mean much, right? I’m really just trying to bring out the very material differences between conceptual and physical systems.

One of the largest discrepancies between conceptual and physical models of the economy is that in the former humans have to be considered to be statistical variables with defined relationships. Considering the economy as a physical system, people are seen as individually learning different things everywhere at once, actively changing the rules they previously followed as they go. Their active learning creates a new environment for them to wake up to every day. Statistical models don’t do justice to that kind of behavior at all.

That difference between the nature of stochastic models and physically animated real systems results in entirely different kinds of predictions. You could say it’s “a definite mismatch of variety” inherent in the difference, between the stochastic behavior of an unchanging global set of rules, and a living global system of opportunistic people. Saying that really doesn’t do the extreme difference in kind justice though.

Just look up from your soggy napkin, then. ;-) Symbols help describe deterministic processes, but a lot of the world doesn’t actually work like symbols.


2 thoughts on “Why ‘reality’ doesn’t work as a concept!”

  1. I still have — even more so due to your selective cutting and pasting of my posts, and deleting comments to the blog, — serious problems with your use of our exchange. I had hoped that you would respect my wish to delete the entire exchange, but I see that I don’t get the reality of my view through to you, and realize that I can’t prevent you from twisting the reality of that episode to your purposes. Which regretfully will prevent me from further engaging with your proposals and arguments in the real issues we are trying to address.

    1. Gee, I didn’t realize you would get so sore. I wonder what you think I’m saying to offend you. As I wrote you I’d be happy to delete your comments if reducing my quotes to under 200 words as you’d asked wasn’t enough. If I paraphrased them, without attribution to you, that would at least let me convey the ideas I thought I was responding to. Is that OK with you?

      I suspect I’m saying something other than you think. That you seem at the “end of your rope” with me is a real concern. You have not indicated the substance of your complaint yet, and that’s the sign of trouble I don’t like. If you were more direct I think we’d both find an agreeable exit from this. I’m really just trying to record bits of constructive thinking on important ideas.

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